Lost Ancestors

Film composers crib classical works all the time. Forex, I sat up with a jolt, decades ago, at the premiere of The Empire Strikes Back when I realized I was hearing a parlayed version of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto behind the action in the Cloud City of Bespin. But last night, just letting the classical station run in an access of blessed relief at the end of the annual onslaught of Christmas dreck — who wants to hear the same string trio version of “Jingle Bells” six times a day? — something hit me between the eyes.

Just the first few bars. Go on, listen. Same key, even.

I’ve been a Trekkie all my life. And not only is Mahler on my Top Ten composer list, that one is my favorite of his symphonies; it’s even “our song” of poignant memory, the one whose A-theme gave my late and ex husband an opening to speak to me for the first time (“Are you whistling Mahler’s First, or the Songs of a Wayfarer?” Trick question; the answer is “yes,” because he recycled the melody).

How did I miss this?


Seasonal Music

(Note: This was supposed to come before “Seasonal Music, II” but WordPress seems to have eaten the first attempt.)

Autumn does not have great PR, the gratuitous schmalz of Thanksgiving aside; it is supposed to be sad, the leaves falling, the days darkening, though to me it means just as easily that the solstice is right around the corner (those days start getting longer again in a month) and if the light is short, it angles through my windows like a tangible substance filling up the rooms, smearing the ceilings with rainbows from the window crystals. To me it feels like a time to be quiet and contemplative, not depressed exactly.

I still like this though. Mahler had not had a good year when he wrote it. As with the earth’s seasons, deaths and farewells are pounded up in creation.

Old recording, George Szell directing. I will still prefer his interpretations to just about any others of the European Romantics. They are perfectly illuminated, each note lucid and heartfelt without bathos or hammy rubato. Maureen Forrester doesn’t suck, either.

2. The Lonely one in autumn

Blueish autumn mists hover over the lake;
white frost covers all grasses;
One would think an artist had strewn jade dust
over the delicate stems.

The sweet fragrance of the flowers has been blown away;
a cold wind bends their stems down.
Soon the withered golden petals
of lotus flowers will float by on the water.

My heart is weary. My little lamp
has gone out with a hiss;
reminding me of sleep.
I am coming to you, beloved resting place!

Yes, give me rest – I need to be refreshed!
I weep a lot in my loneliness.
The autumn in my heart has lasted too long.

Sun of love, will you never shine again,
to gently dry my bitter tears?

The Song Of The Prisoner In The Basement

This cat blending thing is clearly going to be a long term project and except when I can give supervision my full attention I have to either shut Fergie and Nickel on the top floor — where they have each other and some primo sunbeams — or lock Torvald in the laundry room. Frequently he complains, which makes me feel horribly guilty, even though by now he has palatial digs down there, with a fleece lined chair, electric radiator, scatter rugs and a cat tree.

It’s kind of like that, only louder.

The Best Cat In The World, II: or, Urlicht

Some time ago I wrote about the Best Cat In The World.

Beezsun2We said goodbye last night. Even when you know it’s going to happen, it’s always a knife edge between too late and too soon, because most often you assume the honor and godawful responsibility of deciding when to do something. So I write to you with the assistance of several grams (and counting) of tetracycline, because I wanted to hold Apricat Houdini Mitzvah Valjean Beezler (his full name — at 16 pounds plus explosively fluffy coat, it took a long name to wrap around him).  While they were setting the IV in his forepaw he bit me. Yowch.

He bit me when I took him in, so this is symmetry. I don’ t hold it against him. We all have done worse out of fear, pain or panic. He gave me something to remember him.

It was about the most ginger he’d shown since Tuesday. He was nowhere to be found yesterday morning. I finally discovered him standing stockstill behind the refrigerator with his head pushed into the corner — a performance he would repeat in various locations over the next couple of days. Something had happened overnight. He was no longer just slow and drowsy; he really didn’t seem to know what he was doing or where he was.

Anyone who has animals knows about the hours and days after seeing a change like that. Certainty came easier when he was just lethargic and didn’t react to handling; when a cat who has acted that way gets up again and starts tottering around the room, you once again don’t know what to expect or do. But finally he didn’t eat when I put down food. He didn’t even recognize there was food in front of him. That settled it. No one loved food more than that cat.

When I wrote about him before, he could still see a little; several weeks ago, he went from grazing and near-missing to walking dead into things. He could still navigate by ear and whisker, but he couldn’t see his cat family, or me, or anyone; he drifted, his encounters with the world increasingly clumsy, accidental, but not yet so devoid of small feline joys that I felt I needed to cut them short. Until he simply put his head down.

It has been almost eighteen years since I found him starving in that storm sewer. He was the pinkest cat in all creation — literally, in some lights, peach pink. He had silky tufts between his toes, and a tail like a gigantic plume (when he hadn’t licked it bald from his annual bout of allergies). He never exactly ran after he was two years old or so — he sort of stumped — and cat toys, we joked, chased him. But he knew how to be imperial.Beez2 He had to have a complete sex change surgery  because his plumbing kept stopping up, and he never (because the surgery hurt his hind end so much) used the box again, preferring bath mats. I own more bath mats than you want to know about. He outlived two younger cats and the husband I had. My late and ex used to fret that his many ailments and frailties would mean a short life; I said “We all know people like that. They live forever.” I was right.

He used to stand on my back with his amazingly big paws when I did Yoga, and I would rely on him, in his porch-sitting dotage, to enjoy the sunny days that I never have time to breathe in. All cats do that, but he did it best.


All his life he was comical, yet grand.


My onetime husband was firmly agnostic as to humans but chose wilfully to believe in a divinity that watched over cats. I would like to think of some sort of light coming back to him.

O Röschen rot!
Der Mensch liegt in größter Not!
Der Mensch liegt in größter Pein!
Je lieber möcht ich im Himmel sein!

Da kamm ich auf einer breiten Weg;
Da kam ein Engelein und wollt mich abweisen.
Ach nein! Ich ließ mich nicht abweisen!
Ich bin von Gott und will wieder zu Gott!
Der liebe Gott wird mir ein Lichtchen geben,
Wird leuchten mir bis an das ewig selig Leben!

O little red rose!
One languishes in need,
One lingers in great pain.
So dearly would I rather be in Heaven.

So came I there to a broad road,
And an angel stood and made to prevent me:
“Ah, no, you shall not prevent my passing:
I am from God, and will go forth again to God,
the loving God, the beloved God,
will give me a light:
will light me to the everlasting, blessed life.”